Greater Melbourne
City Portrait

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Ecological CeilingSocial FoundationThe safe and just space for Greater Melbourne •


The Melbourne Doughnut

Explore how well Melbourne is tracking as a place that supports people and planet to thrive.

Dimension profile

Chemical Pollution


When toxic compounds, such as synthetic organic pollutants and heavy metals, are released into the biosphere, they can persist for a very long time, with effects that may be irreversible. When they accumulate in the tissue of living creatures, including birds and mammals, they reduce fertility and cause genetic damage, endangering ecosystems on land and in the oceans.

Contributors to Chemical Pollution

Chemical Pollution is a result of toxins released by novel entities, which are any new or altered substances or life forms that have the potential to create unwanted environmental effects. These impact ecosystems and human health through waste generation and direct consumption. Sources of Chemical Pollution include:

  • Chemicals, including 'forever chemicals' (PFAS) found in many everyday products like cosmetics, food packaging, cookware and clothing
  • Engineered materials or organisms
  • Naturally occurring elements, such as heavy metals, when these are concentrated as a result of human use, such as lead in paint

Planetary Quotas for Greater Melbourne

Each dimension of the Ecological Ceiling is measured using per-capita Planetary Quotas for Greater Melbourne.

Chemical Pollution


Human-created waste that does not break down is harming ecosystems and human health

What we're measuring Greater Melbourne Quotas Now

Net amount of non-biodegradable or toxic waste permanently released to the environment

Under 944k tonnes per year 1.28m tonnes per year

Placing Chemical Pollution in the system

Global to local connections The effects of chemicals through both consumption of substances and the accumulation of imperishable waste can feel abstract, but have real effects on ecosystems and people in Greater Melbourne. Significant opportunities to reduce the impacts of Chemical Pollution in Greater Melbourne include activities such as:

  • Increasing consumption of products that do not contain harmful chemicals (and phasing out products that do contain these substances)
  • Reducing the volume of waste that ends up in landfills

Learn more

How was this dimension developed?

The Chemical Pollution dimension of the Greater Melbourne City Portrait has been developed in collaboration with Open Corridor with research support from the University of Melbourne. The assessment of Melbourne's environmental footprint applies a Planetary Accounting approach. A detailed description of the City Portrait methodology is outlined in the About section of the website.

Where can I access the data?

Data for Chemical Pollution, along with the other Ecological Ceiling dimensions are available in the Ecological Ceiling Dataset.

For Social Foundation dimensions, see the Social Foundations Dataset.

Where can I find more information on Chemical Pollution in a regenerative Melbourne?

The City Portrait is informed by extensive research and resources on Doughnut Economics and related frameworks, as well as sector-specific research associated with each dimension. More detailed research that has informed the Chemical Pollution dimension is available to explore via Altiorem's library.

How can I get involved?

To get involved with ongoing development of the City Portrait or learn more about Regen Melbourne, email